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SEIU 1199, Excela Frick hoping to come to contract agreement

| Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

Union and officials with Excela Health Frick have been meeting in hopes of coming to a contract agreement.

The current contract between the hospital and members of Service and Employee International Union 1199 will expire on Tuesday.

The union represents 170 workers in the hospital from the dietary, maintenance, transportation, coffee shop, x-ray, LPN, EEK, EKG, central supply, pharmacy, surgery technicians, paramedics, housekeeping, nurses aides and kitchen.

Representatives from the union and Excela have been meeting for months.

"We started meeting in September," said Frick union steward Loretta Wiltrout Uhrinek. "We've met seven or eight times since then but they really don't seem very interested in what we have to say."

Uhrinek said the union would like to have the Easter holiday returned to them or have Veterans Day as a holiday. The union has also requested two additional personal time off days, a standard of living raise higher than that of the 2 percent that was offered and would like to keep its present prescription plan which pays a minimum of 25 percent and up to full coverage for employees who have put in long periods of time at the hospital.

"They want to cut our prescription plan to 25 percent for everybody," Uhrinek said. "Those of us that have a lot of years have cost-free prescriptions now. This isn't something that they give us, this is something that we have earned, and some of us need that coverage because if people have to pay for their prescriptions, it could really take a big chunk out of their income."

Uhrinek said hospital officials are also proposing a 40-hour work week or 80 hours in a pay period.

"In other words, if you are there and someone calls off, you stay and work 16 hours," Uhrinek said, adding that the worker would then not work the next scheduled day to keep the hours at 40 per week. "That would be very difficult for a lot of us to do."

Hospital officials are also proposing to have the right to send workers home, part or full time, according the hospital census or patient count.

"If the census is low, they could just send you home," Uhrinek said. "The bad part of that is that you will have less in your pay."

Uhrinek said that time could be made up by using vacation time or personal time off days but that option would exhaust an employees' off time.

"If you would do that, you'd never have any vacation time come summer," Uhrinek said.

Excela presented the union with a new three-year contract offer on Oct. 26. On Oct. 28, the union voted it down.

"About 95 percent said no way," Uhrinek said. "We want to get them back to the table to negotiate. A lot of us are long-time employees and we just want to get them to negotiate. We're looking out for our fellow members and we are all so proud of our little community hospital."

Excela Health Frick issued the following written statement: "Excela Health has been negotiating in good faith with the SEIU for the past several weeks. Of the health systems' 4,700 employees, the SEIU represents 170 workers at Frick Hospital. We believe that the final offer we presented is very fair and competitive. It is in line with the package all other Excela Health employees receive and with the local labor market. Right now, our top priority must be to continue the quality care the community has come to expect from Frick Hospital. Patient care must not be compromised. Excela Health remains focused on providing the best care possible to our patients at all our hospitals throughout the region."

Twelve Frick union representatives from the various departments have been involved in negotiation talks. Uhrinek said their only desire at this point is to go back to the table.

Uhrinek said a non-settlement of the contract does not mean that the group plans to strike.

"I have told everyone that this was not a strike vote," she stressed.

Of the hospitals within the Excela group, Frick is the only facility that has a union.

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